40 Years of Marine Conservation on Lundy 26/06/2011
It was 40 years ago that the first steps were taken to turn its waters into Britain's first voluntary marine nature reserve.
It subsequently became that and much more, ensuring a safe haven for wildlife from seals to sunset corals.
But it may have been a very different story without the protection it received following those first visionary steps.
The idea of a marine nature reserve at Lundy was first published by Heather Machin – now Heather Booker – in an article for the Journal of the Devon Trust for Nature Conservation in 1969.
Then, during 1971, publicity and consultations were initiated by the Lundy Field Society in collaboration with the island authorities and the Nature Conservancy.
A management policy was published the following year and the waters around Lundy subsequently became the country's first Marine Nature Reserve in 1986.
It also hosted the first No-Take Zone in 2003 and, as a direct result of the Marine and Coastal Access Act, became England's first Marine Conservation Zone in January 2010.
Dr Keith Hiscock, who co-ordinated the original consultation and still remains involved in Lundy and marine conservation in general, said: "Lundy is an outstanding location for marine life. The work done over the past 40 years has increased our understanding of marine ecology, helped to protect the island's wildlife and enabled the public to better enjoy the marine environment."
Threats to the marine environment around Lundy have come in many guises.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, concerns were mainly focused on divers taking souvenirs such as dried sea fans and urchins to be sold as curios.
At the same time, the population of crawfish was being decimated by both diver-collection and tangled netting.
Another threat was mobile bottom fishing gear which had the potential to seriously damage rich sediment communities and fragile reef habitats.
Through the Devon Sea Fisheries Committee (DSFC), a voluntary agreement not to dredge off the east coast was achieved and DSFC was also instrumental in establishing the highly successful no-take zone in 2003.
Their Chief Fisheries Officer Keith Bower said: "The Devon Sea Fisheries Committee has always collaborated in moves to protect wildlife around Lundy and soon, as the Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, will continue to work with others to protect Lundy's unique features while ensuring that fisheries there are properly managed."
Natural England, the Government's statutory nature conservation agency, funds monitoring studies, displays, leaflets and the work of the wildlife wardens on Lundy.
Melanie Parker, Natural England's marine advisor, said: "Lundy has been a pioneer for marine conservation in this country.
"We are delighted that it is now possible to celebrate 40 years of that success."
A programme of activities, events and publications are planned this year to mark 40 years of conservation.
Highlights include the 2011 Splash-IN, an underwater photographic competition, a reception on the MS Oldenburg at Bideford, and the publication of and new Marine Guide and a booklet covering 40 years of marine conservation at Lundy.
Dr Keith Hiscock, who is compiling the booklet, said: "We hope this year's celebrations will acknowledge all those who have been involved with the island over the years and this booklet is definitely helping to do that.
"The island has progressed so much further than ever anticipated in the early days and it is great to see the conservation being continually developed."
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